Category Archives: Obituaries

Multifaceted Jazz Keyboardist and R&B Producer George Duke Dies at 67

George Duke - Photo By Bobby Holland
George Duke – Photo By Bobby Holland
Award-winning jazz musician and producer George Duke died Monday, August 5th, 2013 in Los Angeles. He was suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia and was 67 at the time of his death.

George Duke was an exceptional artist. He collaborated with trailblazing rock musician Frank Zappa, jazz legend Miles Davis, and pop star Michael Jackson, among others. George Duke ventured into numerous musical genres, ranging from fusion, rock and jazz to funk and R&B.

George Duke was born in San Rafael, California, and grew up in Marin City, a working class section of Marin County. He began his piano studies at age seven, learning the roots of Black music in his local Baptist church.

After college, George Duke joined Al Jarreau in forming the house band at the Half Note, the popular San Francisco club, in the late 1960s. He also played with Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon in other San Francisco clubs around the same time.

During the late 1960s and 1970s George Duke was a fusion pioneer and formed bands with violinist Jean Luc Ponty and later with drummer Billy Cobham. In the 1980s, George Duke became a very successful producer of R&B and pop albums. His solo albums included fusion, R&B, funk and smooth jazz.

George Duke
George Duke
GRAMMY winner George Duke was a multitalented producer and keyboardist whose sound infused jazz, funk and R&B throughout his 40-year-plus career. His diversity as a musician can be heard on music from Frank Zappa to Michael Jackson, as well as production on albums by Al Jarreau and Dianne Reeves. His immense talent will live on through the hundreds of recordings he’s given the world, and we send our sympathies to his family, friends and all who were touched by his soulful music,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy.

As a composer, George Duke established a reputation for his television and film work with The Five Heartbeats film soundtrack, the title song for the movie Karate Kid III, music for Paramount Pictures movies Leap Of Faith and Meteor Man, and NBC’s Leeza and Marilu daytime talk shows.

George Duke’s most recent album, DreamWeaver, came out last month, July 2013. He called it his “most honest album in several years.” The recording of DreamWeaver took place after his wife, Corine, passed away.

George Duke with Frank Zappa:

A visit to George Duke’s studio

Progressive Rock Guitarist Peter Banks Dies at 65

Peter Banks during the Flash years (1972)
Peter Banks during the Flash years (1972)
British musician Peter Banks, who was the first guitar player for progressive rock band Yes, passed away at his home in London on March 8, 2013 due to heart failure.

Banks was born in London on July 15th, 1947. He was a founding member of the pioneering progressive rock group Yes. He performed on the band’s first two albums, ‘Yes‘ and ‘Time And A Word‘.

After a brief period with Blodwyn Pig, he formed a band called Flash and released 3 critically acclaimed albums, Flash, In The Can, and Out Of Our Hands.

By 1973, Banks’ music evolved towards jazz-rock. He played in a band called Zox and the Radar Boys, which featured Phil Collins of Genesis.

In the mid-1970s, Peter Banks formed the band Empire and released 3 albums, ‘Mark I‘ ‘Mark II‘ and ‘Mark III‘. During his career, Banks released 5 solo albums: Two Sides Of Peter Banks (with an all-star line-up of Jan Akkerman, Phil Collins and John Wetton), Instinct, Self-Contained, Reduction, and Can I Play You Something?.

In the early 2000’s Banks wrote his autobiography ‘Beyond & Before‘ published by Golden Treasures publishing in the US.

In late 2004, Banks formed Harmony In Diversity, a free-form psychedelic improv three-piece band who performed in London and released a CD titled Trying. The group consisted of Banks, Nick Cottam on bass and David Speight on drums.

More recently, he collaborated with acts such as Harmony and Diversity, Prog Collective, ANT-BEE and Days Between Stations. Peter Banks was also putting on the final touches of the long awaited live recording ‘Flash – In Public’ CD set for release on Cleopatra Records at the time of his passing. He also played on the new “Prog Collective 2” project Billy Sherwood is writing and producing.

I’m sorry to hear of Peter Banks’ passing… a great pal and a great guitarist,” said renowned progressive rock guitarist and composer Steve Hackett.

I loved working with Peter on the many records I have produced over the years, he always delivered amazing stuff, creative, inspires and always with that classic original YES flavor that came with his playing,” said rock musician and producer Billy Sherwood. “He will be missed by me and many many other fans of his music and playing.”

British Psychedelic Rock Pioneer Kevin Ayers Dies at 68

Kevin Ayers on the cover of his album Deja Vu
Kevin Ayers on the cover of his album Deja Vu
The British media announced today that British guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Kevin Ayers, a leading figure in the UK’s psychedelic rock scene, died February 18th, 2013 in Montolieu, France. He was 68 years old.

Kevin Ayers was part of the legendary Canterbury music movement and was a founding member of the groundbreaking and influential band Soft Machine.

Ayers was born in Herne Bay, Kent, in 1944. During his early university years he took part in the thriving music scene in the Canterbury area of England. He joined a band called Wilde Flowers that included Robert Wyatt and Hugh Hopper, as well as future members of progressive rock band Caravan.

The Wilde Flowers grew into Soft Machine with the addition of keyboardist Mike Ratledge and Australian guitarist Daevid Allen. Soft Machine was initially a psychedelic rock band that evolved into one of the most notable avant-garde and jazz-rock bands in the world.

Ayers participated in the album The Soft Machine. He left after that recording and started a long solo career. Some of his essential recordings include Whatevershebringswesing, Bananamour, The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories. His last album was Unfairground, released in 2007.

In addition to his solo albums, Ayers collaborated with Brian Eno, Syd Barrett, John Cale, Elton John, Robert Wyatt, Andy Summers, Mike Oldfield, Nico and Ollie Halsall.

Kevin Ayers lived for many years in Deyá, in the Spanish island of Majorca, and also spent time in Ibiza, Madrid and northern France. He returned to the United Kingdom in the mid-1990s and later moved to the south of France.

Kevin Ayers at Taverne De L’Olympia, May 1970 – Part 1

TV special for TVE (Spain)

Kevin Ayers with Mike Oldfield

Van der Graaf Generator Bassist Nic Potter Dies at 61

Nic Potter
Nic Potter
British bassist, songwriter and painter Nic Potter died January 17th, 2013. He was a respected musician who worked with legendary progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator in the 1970s.

Nic Potter was born October 18th of 1951 in Wiltshire. He joined Van der Graaf Generator in 1969. Potter participated in the album The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other. He left the band during the recording of H to He, although he appears in 3 tracks.

He stayed in touch with Van der Graaf Generator and played bass on Peter Hammill’s debut solo album, Fool’s Mate. He also participated in Colin Scot’s album titled Colin Scot and with the band Magna Carta.

Throughout the 1970s he performed with many musicians spanning various musical styles. He worked with Jeff Beck, Chuck Berry, Rare Bird and Steve Swindells.

In 1977, he returned to Van der Graaf Generator. He appeared on the albums The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome (1977) and the double live set Vital (1978), as well as on Peter Hammill’s solo recording Over (1977).

During the 1980s and early 1990s Potter worked on various projects. He continued to record and tour with Peter Hammill and played bass for the K-Group and Duncan Browne. He also started a solo career, focusing on electronic music. Solo albums include The Long Hello Volume II (1980), Mountain Music (1983), Sketches In Sound (1986), The Blue Zone (1990), The Blue Zone Party Live (1991), Dreamworld (1997).

In 2008 Potter released the album “Live in Italy” that featured Van der Graaf Generator‘s David Jackson on saxophone and flutes, Tony Pagliuca (of legendary Italian band Le Orme) on keyboards, Francesca Arrigoni on vocals, Franco Giaffreda on guitar, and Gigi Cavalli Cocchi on drums.

Progressive Rock Drummer Ivo Varts Dies at 51

Estonian Public Broadcasting announced the death of Ivo Varts, a progressive rock drummer from Estonia. He died in Tallin on January 15th of an accidental fall.

Born on December 1st, 1961, in the town of Rakvere, Varts performed with some of Estonia’s most popular progressive rock bands, including Ruja, Kaseke, and In Spe. He also played with various other rock and blues bands, such as Mahavok, Propeller, Haak, Compromise Blue and satirical rock band Apelsin.

Michael Dunford of Progressive Rock Band Renaissance Dies

Michael Dunford
Progressive rock band Renaissance announced today that its leading composer and guitarist Michael Dunford died on Tuesday, November 20, 2012. He had just returned home from the first part of the band’s North American tour and suffered a what was reported as a massive instantaneous cerebral hemorrhage, while dining at his home in Surrey, England on Monday night. Mr. Dunford was rushed to a hospital where doctors declared his condition irreparable and terminal. He passed away at 11:06 pm GMT, surrounded by his family.

Michael Dunford was born, raised and educated in Surrey. His first job was selling clothing in a local shop followed by a period as an airside driver at Heathrow Airport which enabled him to form a “skiffle” group which led to his first rock band called Nashville Teens in the early 1960s. Nashville Teens reached #6 on U.K. singles charts with their version of Tobacco Road.

He later formed other bands including The Pentad and The Plebes. One night he went to see the original band Renaissance perform locally and ended up joining them in the early 1970s. The original band members were Jim McCarty, Louis Cennamo, John Hawken, Keith Relf and Jane Relf.

Dunford and vocalist Annie Haslam became the primary creative force of Renaissance in 1971. The band defined its sound as a fusion of folk rock and classical music. Dunford and Haslam established Renaissance as a world class recording and touring progressive rock act, selling out venues like New York’s Carnegie Hall and The Royal Albert Hall in London.

Michael Dunford and Annie Haslam
Renaissance released over a dozen albums, including timeless classics like Turn of the Cards and Scheherazade, before eventually parting ways in the mid-1980s. However, Haslam and Dunford continued to write new material together and in 2001 reunited the band to record a new studio album, tour the following year, and release a live album.

After another sabbatical, the refreshed line-up was introduced to the world and captured for posterity on Turn of the Cards and Scheherazade and Other Stories Live 2011.

Earlier this fall, Dunford and the band completed recording their first new studio album in twelve years. Grandine il Vento was recorded at Studio X in Ridgewood New Jersey, USA. All the music on the new album except for one track was composed and arranged by Dunford and features him on acoustic guitars and backing vocals.

Michael Dunford is survived by his wife Clare, two sons William (13) and Oliver (10), and sister Judy Kendall. Services will be held at Woking Crematorium at a date to be announced.

Influential Uruguayan Drummer Osvaldo Fattoruso Dies at 64

Osvaldo Fattoruso
Legendary Uruguayan rock and jazz drummer Osvaldo Fattoruso died this morning in Montevideo of cancer. He was 64.

Jorge Osvaldo Fattoruso was born May 12th, 1948 in Montevideo, Uruguay. He was one of the founders of rock band Los Shakers in the 1960s, which introduced rock music to Latin America. The band featured Osvaldo on vocals and guitar, his brother Hugo also on vocals and guitar, Roberto Capobianco on bass and Carlos Villa on drums.

In 1969 Osvaldo relocated to the United States. In 1970, Osvaldo and Hugo became Airto Moreira and Flora Purim’s backing band, appearing on several of their early to mid-1970s albums.

It was seminal band Opa, however, which got Osvaldo Fattoruso international recognition. Osvaldo formed Opa, together with his brother Hugo and Ringo Thielmann. Opa was a legendary fusion band that combined rock, jazz and Latin American rhythms such as Afro-Uruguayan candombe as well as Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian beats. Osvaldo Fattoruso became Opa’s drummer. Opa signed to Milestone in 1976 and recorded two albums produced by Airto Moreira, Goldenwings in 1976 and Magic Time in 1977.

Osvaldo Fattoruso returned to Uruguay in 1981 and moved to Buenos Aires (Argwetina) in 1982, where he worked with some of the leading rock musicians of the time, including Litto Nebbia, Luis Alberto Spinetta, Alejandro Lerner, León Gieco, Fito Páez and his fellow Uruguayan Rubén Rada.

During the 1990s, Osvaldo worked with Uruguayan artist Mariana Ingold, with whom he released over a dozen albums.

In 2000, Osvaldo, his bother Hugo and his nephew Francisco (Hugo’s son) formed the new Trío Fattoruso.

Druid Drummer Cedric Sharpley Dies

Cedric Sharpley (left) with Druid
South African drummer Cedric Sharpley died from a heart attack on March 13th, 2012. Cedric Sharpley was the drummer for Druid, a 1970s progressive rock band from the UK that was influenced by Yes. He later joined Tubeway Army, the group led by electropop pioneer Gary Numan.

Cedric Sharpley was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1952. He moved to the UK and settled in Hertfordshire during the 1960s. He formed progressive rock band Druid with bassist Neil Brewer, singer and guitarist Dane Stevens, and keyboardist Andrew McCrorie Shand. Druid released two albums on EMI: Toward The Sun (1975) and Fluid Druid (1976).

Druid disbanded in the mid-1970s. Cedric Sharpley joined Tubeway Army and played drums on Gary Numan’s “Cars.” He performed with Numan from 1979 to 1992. After Tubeway Army disbanded, Sharpley, synthesist Chris Payne, guitarist Russell Bell and keyboard-player Denis Haines, formed synthpop band Dramatis.

Argentine Rock Music Legend Luis Alberto Spinetta Dies at 62

Luis Alberto Spinetta
Luis Alberto Spinetta, one of the most important figures in Argentine rock music died today, February 8th, 2012 of lung cancer. He was 62.

Composer, guitarist, poet and vocalist Luis Alberto Spinetta was one of the pioneers of rock music in Argentina and was a member of legendary bands Almendra, Pescado Rabioso, Invisible, and Spinetta Jade. He was also a well-respected musician throughout Latin America.

Luis Alberto Spinetta was born on January 23rd, 1950 in Buenos Aires. His nickname was El Flaco (the skinny guy).

In 1967 he formed a band called Almendra with school friends. This was one of the first rock bands in South America that composed its own songs and recorded in Spanish. Almendra released two influential albums: Almendra (1969) and Almendra II (1970).

The next band he formed was Pescado Rabioso, a rock group that had harder sound. Pescado Rabioso released Desatormentándonos (1972), Pescado II (1973) and Artaud (1973).

In 1974 Spinetta started a new band called Invisible. The sound was more laid back, combining blues rock with engaging ballads and some jazz elements. Invisible released three albums: Invisible, Durazno Sangrando and El Jardín De Los Presentes. Durazno Sangrando is considered one of Spinetta’s finest works. On El Jardín De Los Presentes Spinetta introduced new elements such as bandoneón, which added an Argentine folk music flavor. Spinetta also showed his skills as a guitarist, with beautiful instrumental solos.

After dissolving Invisible in 1976, Spinetta embraced jazz fusion, combining rock, jazz and Latin American rhythms. He released one of his finest works, A 18´ del Sol (1977) and later formed fusion band Spinetta Jade. This new band released Alma de Diamante (1980), Los Niños Que Escriben En El Cielo (1981), Bajo Belgrano (1983) and Madre en Años Luz (1984). The first two albums were solid fusion. The latter headed in a pop direction.

In the mid-1980s, Spinetta dissolved Spinetta Jade and produced a series of solo albums. He formed a new band in the late 1990s called Spinetta y los Socios del Desierto. The group released three albums: Socios del Desierto (1996), San Cristóforo (1998, live) and Los Ojos (1999).

Spinetta y los Socios del Desierto disbanded in late 1999. Spinetta returned to his solo career, releasing Silver Sorgo (2001), Para los Árboles (2003), Camalotus (2004), Pan (2006), Un Mañana (2008) and Spinetta y las Bandas Eternas (2010).

Spanish Electronic Music Pioneer Carlos Guirao Dies

Carlos Guirao live in Lleida at his last concert on December 16, 2011
Spanish synthesist and guitarist Carlos Guirao died January 17th, 2012 of cancer. He was 57. Guirao was one of the pioneers of electronic music in Spain. Together with synthesist Michel Huygen and guitarist Albert Giménez, Guirao formed the best known Spanish electronic group, Neuronium.

The first Neuronium album was titled Quasar 2C361, (EMI-Harvest, 1977). Next came Vuelo Químico (chemical flight) released in 1978. It was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s literary work and featured the legendary Nico (The Velvet Underground).

After Vuelo Químico, Albert Giménez left the group and Neuronium became a duo. In 1980 Neuronium released Digital Dream under its own indie label, Neuronium Records. Digital Dream featured guitarist Santi Picó as a guest.

Revelation, Carlos Guirao's first solo album
Guirao continued his work with Neuronium, releasing The Visitor (1981) and Chromium Echoes (1982).

In 1982, Guirao left Neuronium. That same year, he released Revelation, a solo album that continued the Neuronium sound. Revelation featured Guirao on synthesizers and Jose Maria Ciria and Manolo Torres on drums.

In the mid-1980s, Guirao’s electronic music shifted from space music to techno. He founded a duo called Programa with José Antonio López Ibañez. Programa released Síntesis Digital (1983) and Acrópolis (1985).
Carlos Guirao exited Programa after Acrópolis. Although he didn’t officially release any recordings for several years, he never stopped making music. He worked as an art restorer and played guitar and keyboards with a group of friends in a rock band called Cherish Band. The band’s repertory included covers of Pink Floyd pieces.

Carlos Guirao - Photo by Marcos Faundez-Zanuy
Guirao released a new solo album of symphonic electronic music titled Symphony in 2010. Symphony featured Guirao on keyboards with J. Artigas on acoustic guitar, J. Durban on drums, and F. Montraveta on keyboards.

Other recent recordings include his collaboration with his former Programa bandmate Joseph Loibant (the new artistic name of José Antonio López Ibañez) titled “Alchemy” (At-Mooss Records), the double CD “Brumas” (Mists) inspired by the fresh air of deep forests in imaginary worlds, and “El vuelo de las almas miticas” (the flight of the mythical souls) composed in 2007 and arranged and orchestrated in 2011.

Carlos Guirao left several unreleased musical works. More information and photos with Klaus Schulze and Vangelis are available at: